This Dal Makhani recipe is a restaurant-style version with creamy lentils and subtle smoky flavors. If you love authentic Punjabi cuisine, you’ll love this Dal Makhani even more.
Dal Makhani is one of the most popular lentil recipes in North Indian Punjabi cuisine made with red beans (known under the name of Rajma in Hindi) and whole black lentils (also known Kaali Dal or Urad dal in Hindi).
Why this recipe works
Before I list and explain the beauty of this recipe to you, let me tell you that this recipe from Dal Makhani is one of our most beloved and beloved recipes on the blog.
It was made by many of our readers and they loved it. It is also my most shared recipe on social networks.
So what makes this recipe so good and why is it one of best Dal Makhani recipes.
The whole aromatic and fragrant spices make this Dal Makhani tastier.
In my experimentation with this dish earlier, I remember making dal makhani without whole spices several times and hoping to get a restaurant like the taste and flavors of the lentils. But it never matched and my experiences continued.
In their dal makhni, I once found a black cardamom and a clove. I thought maybe it was the black cardamom and clove giving that lovely aroma and flavor.
Subsequently, I tested the dal makhani several times adding whole spices and realized that they add good aroma and a flavor to the dish. But I still felt that something was missing.
Butter and cream
Cream and butter make a big difference.
So I kept experimenting and when I tested Dal Bukhara’s recipe, I realized it was cream and butter giving a rich taste apart from slow cooking.
The richness of the dish comes from the fats of the butter and the cream. The amount of butter and cream added is not abundant and just enough to lift the dish in its richness.
You can still make dal makhani with less butter and cream. Remember to cook it slowly for longer periods, to get the real deal.
The slower the dal makhani is cooked, the better the taste.
In most Indian restaurants specializing in authentic North Indian cuisine, Dal Makhani is simmered for many hours.
Basically you can call it slow cooking lentils. This slow cooking makes all the difference in the consistency of the lentils.
The lentils are slowly cooked in a tandoor. The tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven. The fire in the tandoor comes from charcoal or lighted wood.
Simmering dal makhani overnight gives a little smoke in the charcoal or wood dish.
In most Indian homes, you won’t find a tandoor. But you will easily find a pressure cooker.
A pressure cooker is the fastest way to cook lentils. In this article, I used a pressure cooker, but you can also cook the lentils in an Instant Pot.
I cooked the lentils and beans in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes. Later, I slowly cooked them over low heat for 25 minutes.
You can simmer longer than I did. Slow cooking makes the lentils creamy, viscous and the end result is a finger-licking dal makhani.
For this restaurant-style taste, the smoky aroma and flavor is key.
As I mentioned above, the smoky aroma of dal makhani comes from slow simmering and cooking dal makhani over charcoal fires or embers or wood.
To reproduce this smoke in the dish, I have two proven methods for you.
- Charcoal Infused Smoke: This is also called Dhungar in Hindi. It is a charcoal smoking technique. It works wonders for any recipe where you need a smoky flavor. Dal makhani smoked with this method tastes exactly the same as that in the restaurant. The dhungar smoking technique is optional and you can just skip it if you can’t get any charcoal.
- Use smoked paprika: Using smoked paprika is the easiest and most effective method when you can’t get charcoal. Simply substitute the red chili powder in the recipe for smoked paprika. To get that smoky flavor, I have added smoked paprika so many times to the dal makhani.
Two other similar Punjabi recipes that you can make with black gram are Kaali Dal (Punjabi maah ki dal) and Amritsari Dal (langarwali dal).
Also Read: Soya Keema Matar Masala Recipe
How to make Dal Makhani
Soak the lentils
1. In enough water, soak both ¾ cup whole urad dal (whole black gram) and ¼ cup rajma (kidney beans) overnight for 8-9 hours. Drain them well.
2. Rinse urad lentils and rajma legumes several times in water.
3. Drain them well then add them to a 3 liter pressure cooker.
4. Add 3 cups of water and mix well.
5. Pressure cook for 18-20 whistles over high heat, until the whole urad dal and rajma are cooked through and softened. If they are not done, add about ½ cup of water again and cook under pressure for 4 to 5 more whistles.
6. Both rajma and urad dal are cooked and well softened. The urad dal should melt in the mouth.
To check doneness, you can also just mash the urad dal with a spoon or your fingers. The same rule also applies to kidney beans.
Keep the cooked beans aside. Urad dal beans and kidney beans should be fresh. If they’re old or close to their expiration date, they take a long time to cook.
7. In a blender or mixing bowl, take chopped tomatoes. 2 large tomatoes or 200 grams chopped tomatoes. No need to blanch the tomatoes.
8. Mix to a smooth purée. Set aside. You can also use the store brought 1 cup of tomato puree instead of mixing the tomatoes.
Making dal makhani
9. In a saucepan, now heat 3 tablespoons of butter. You can use salted butter or unsalted butter.
10. Add whole spices – ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 black cardamom, 1 inch of cinnamon, 1 small to medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf), 2 to 3 cloves, 2 to 3 green cardamoms. Fry until the spices turn aromatic and spit.
11. Then add ½ cup finely chopped onions.
12. Stir and brown the onions over low heat often.
13. Sauté the onions until they turn lightly golden.
14. Then add 2 teaspoons of ginger garlic paste. Stir again and sauté until the raw aroma of ginger and garlic is gone.
15. Add 1 teaspoon of chopped green peppers and stir for a minute.
16. Then add the prepared tomato puree.
17. Mix again.
18. Add ½ teaspoon of red chilli powder.
19. Then add about 2 to 3 pinches of nutmeg powder.
20. Mix very well and sauté this mixture over low to medium heat, until you see the fat coming off the sides. It takes about 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low to medium heat.
21. Then add the cooked rajma beans and urad dal.
22. Add the remaining stock. Add 1 cup of water or more if needed.
23. Mix very well and over low heat simmer the uncovered dal.
24. Continue stirring often so that the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Lentils get slimy and start to stick to the bottom if they are not stirred. Also crush some lentils while stirring.
25. Once the dal makhani has started to thicken, add more salt as needed.
26. Mix very well and simmer over low heat. Continue to stir when the lentils are simmering over low heat. When simmering, you can add more water if the consistency seems thick or dry.
The longer you simmer the dal makhni, the better it tastes. The lentils become creamy, viscous, and the consistency of the dal will continue to thicken as you simmer.
I stayed for about 25 minutes on low heat. Continue to stir at intervals.
27. When the sauce has thickened enough, add ¼ to ⅓ cup low fat or half and half cream. If using heavy cream, add 2 tbsp.
The Punjabi dal makhani consistency is neither too thick nor too thin. It has a medium consistency with a stickiness coming from well-cooked lentils.
28. Mix the cream very well. Then turn off the heating.
29. Now add ¼ teaspoon of crushed kasuri methi. Stir again. Cover and keep the dal makhani aside, if using the dhungar method. Or you can right away serve Punjabi dal makhani.
Optional – charcoal smoking or dhungar method
30. Heat a small piece of charcoal over the flame until it turns red. Using tongs, keep turning the piece of charcoal so that it burns evenly.
31. In a small bowl, keep the hot red charcoal.
32. On the charcoal, pour ½ to ? teaspoon of oil. The hot piece of charcoal would start to smoke as soon as you poured oil on it.
33. Keep this bowl on top of the dal immediately.
34. Cover with an airtight lid for a minute and let the charcoal infuse its smoke into the dal makhani. I usually keep a minute.
35. Stir again. Serve the Punjabi dal makhani garnished with chopped coriander leaves and a few teaspoons of cream with kulcha, naan, paratha, steamed rice.